Monday, August 13, 2007

Onward Christian soldiers?

The Sunday Star-Times yesterday had a piece about the potential for a Christian party in New Zealand. According to their polling, 33% support parties adopting policies that "more closely reflect traditional Christian values", while 6% would vote for a new Christian party at the next election, with another 9% in "soft" suport. So, should we be worried?

Not really. As the poll report [DOC] notes, "hypothetical polling of this kind can easily overstate a political party’s prospect". What people say they'll do and what they'll actually do can be very different things, especially when there's no actual choice before them. Add to that sharp divisions amongst Christians over what policies "Christian moral values" translate to (Savage's welfare state as "applied Christianity", or the Maxim Institute's welfare and service cuts?) and the potential for this to divide the potential voter base, and the prospects of any actual Christian party crossing the 5% threshhold look remote.

Still, it would not be a bad thing for the left if the Christian right tried. As Chris Trotter pointed out in his Independent column last month (offline), a right-wing Christian party pushing social conservative policies would force National to defend itself on the right, which would in turn risk alienating the moderate voters they are currently chasing. Then there's the threat of such a party being a future coalition partner and influence on government policy. New Zealanders are a pretty secular, moderate lot, and the thought of religious fanatics using the government as a vehicle to stick their nose into everyone's bedroom will scare the bejesus out of them.